Chloroplasts require glutathione reductase to balance reactive oxygen species and maintain efficient photosynthesis

Plant J. 2020 Aug;103(3):1140-1154. doi: 10.1111/tpj.14791. Epub 2020 May 23.


Thiol-based redox-regulation is vital for coordinating chloroplast functions depending on illumination and has been throroughly investigated for thioredoxin-dependent processes. In parallel, glutathione reductase (GR) maintains a highly reduced glutathione pool, enabling glutathione-mediated redox buffering. Yet, how the redox cascades of the thioredoxin and glutathione redox machineries integrate metabolic regulation and detoxification of reactive oxygen species remains largely unresolved because null mutants of plastid/mitochondrial GR are embryo-lethal in Arabidopsis thaliana. To investigate whether maintaining a highly reducing stromal glutathione redox potential (EGSH ) via GR is necessary for functional photosynthesis and plant growth, we created knockout lines of the homologous enzyme in the model moss Physcomitrella patens. In these viable mutant lines, we found decreasing photosynthetic performance and plant growth with increasing light intensities, whereas ascorbate and zeaxanthin/antheraxanthin levels were elevated. By in vivo monitoring stromal EGSH dynamics, we show that stromal EGSH is highly reducing in wild-type and clearly responsive to light, whereas an absence of GR leads to a partial glutathione oxidation, which is not rescued by light. By metabolic labelling, we reveal changing protein abundances in the GR knockout plants, pinpointing the adjustment of chloroplast proteostasis and the induction of plastid protein repair and degradation machineries. Our results indicate that the plastid thioredoxin system is not a functional backup for the plastid glutathione redox systems, whereas GR plays a critical role in maintaining efficient photosynthesis.

Keywords: Physcomitrella patens; chloroplast; glutathione redox potential; glutathione reductase; moss; non-photochemical quenching; photosynthesis; reactive oxygen species; redox-sensitive GFP.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arabidopsis / enzymology
  • Arabidopsis / metabolism
  • Arabidopsis / physiology
  • Arabidopsis Proteins / metabolism
  • Arabidopsis Proteins / physiology
  • Bryopsida / enzymology
  • Bryopsida / metabolism
  • Bryopsida / physiology
  • Cell Cycle Proteins / metabolism
  • Cell Cycle Proteins / physiology
  • Chloroplasts / enzymology
  • Chloroplasts / metabolism*
  • Chloroplasts / physiology
  • Gene Knockout Techniques
  • Glutathione / metabolism
  • Glutathione Reductase / metabolism*
  • Glutathione Reductase / physiology
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Photosynthesis*
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism*


  • Arabidopsis Proteins
  • AtGR1 protein, Arabidopsis
  • Cell Cycle Proteins
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Glutathione Reductase
  • Glutathione